Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Savior's Knowledge of the World

Yesterday I wrote about how the Savior showed He lived a balanced life in the way that He interacted with society and was able to socialize with all classes of people.  Another way in which we see evidence of a balanced life was in the way that He understood the common, temporal things of life.  He was not a monk who lived outside of the world and studied only spiritual matters.  He was profoundly aware of the things that daily life involved and was able to speak to a manner in which the people understood.  His teachings and especially His parables showed that He understood life in a very practical way. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Balanced Life

I listened to a podcast of a discussion with Dr. Lane Smith about living a balanced life, and he suggested that the Savior was an example of one who indeed lived a balanced life.  The most obvious scripture that tells us this is the brief description we have of His growing up years, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).  Many talks have been given based on this verse, and it shows that Jesus lived a life that was not only concerned with purely spiritual matters.  He learned things both spiritual and temporal, grew and took care of his physical body, developed socially so that He could successfully interact with others, and of course learned to know His Father in Heaven and do His will.  It is easy in our time especially to feel that our lives are out of balance as we frantically try to get all the things done without ever seeming to have enough time, but from what we read in the scriptures Jesus never appeared rushed or flustered or so busy that He just didn’t have time for people.  He had the kind of balance that we would all do well to emulate. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Son of David, Son of God

Towards the end of His earthly ministry, the Savior asked the Pharisees, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?”  They responded that He was “the Son of David,” and to this Jesus responded, “How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matt. 22:42-45).  The Savior was quoting a psalm of David found in Psalm 110:1 which reads, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”  The first LORD is in all small caps, which means that it is a translation of the Hebrew name for God “YHWH” which we typically understand to mean a reference to Jehovah.  But in this context it may have been a reference to the Father (and often in the Bible references to God could mean either the Father or the Son—they are so united in purpose that it in most cases it doesn’t matter which one we are referring to).  It appears that the general Christian interpretation for this verse in Psalms is that “two distinct divine Persons ("LORD" and "Lord") are involved,” which presumably means the first refers to the Father and the second to the Son.  Looking at the use of the small caps in Matthew 22, this appears to be exactly what Jesus meant; He asked how David called the Messiah “Lord” (not all caps) in the Psalm, meaning that Christ was referring to the use of the second “Lord” as a reference to the Messiah.  Peter clearly believed this interpretation and preached to the people at the day of Pentecost, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand” (Acts 2:32-34).  His point to the people seems to have been that Jesus was greater than David and had ascended to the right hand of the Father.    

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Pearl of Great Price: Yet Another Testament of Jesus Christ

The past few days I’ve written about the various themes that we find in the Pearl of Great Price and which connect the otherwise very different sections of the book.  There’s one more topic that I haven’t mentioned and which is touched upon in all five parts: Jesus Christ.  All chapters in the book speak about Him in some way, even if they use different titles: Only Begotten Son, Beloved Son, the Son of Man, Messiah, Jehovah, God, or simply Jesus Christ.  Even though the majority of the book speaks about prophets in a time before the Savior came, all of it witnesses of the reality, power, and importance of the Son of God.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Baptism and Repentance in the Pearl of Great Price

The more I think about the stories and messages of the Pearl of Great Price, the more themes that I see that cross the different chapters and books therein.  Continuing from yesterday’s thoughts, another important topic that spans the book is that of baptism.  We see the importance of baptism from Adam the first man to Joseph and Oliver in this last dispensation.  God spoke to Adam saying, “If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Moses 6:52).  The Lord taught Adam why men were to be baptized and then “he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water” (Moses 6:64).  Enoch also taught the people the importance of baptism, saying, “He gave unto me a commandment that I should baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, which is full of grace and truth, and of the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son” (Moses 7:11).  Similarly Noah taught the people their need for baptism: “Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, even as our fathers, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost” (Moses 8:24).  And then in our dispensation, the Pearl of Great Price tells how Joseph and Oliver also learned of baptism and were baptized.  Joseph told how John the Baptist appeared to them, granting “the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.”  After receiving the Aaronic Priesthood they “went and were baptized” (JSH 1:69, 71).  Clearly the Pearl of Great Price witnesses that in whatever time period one has lived, baptism is essential and is indeed one of the “first principles and ordinances of the gospel” (A of F 4). 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

More Themes in the Pearl of Great Price

Continuing the thought from yesterday, there are more themes that we see across the various scriptural accounts that we have in the Pearl of Great Price.  One of the most obvious is that of creation.  We have two separate readings of the creation story, one in Moses 2-3 and one in Abraham 4-5.  We read how God “created the heaven, and the earth” and see that “the Gods formed the earth and the heavens” in a planned and purposeful way (Moses 2:1, Abraham 5:4).  But the scope of the creation was much bigger than just this earth.  God told Moses, “My works are without end….  Worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose” (Moses 1:4, 33).  Abraham similarly learned of God’s great creations, and he was shown the stars of the heavens while God “told [him] of the works which his hands had made.”  Abraham “saw those things which his hands had made, which were many; and they multiplied before mine eyes, and [he] could not see the end thereof” (Abraham 3:11-12).  Both Moses and Abraham learned not only that God had created this earth but that His creations throughout the universe were numberless.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Principles in the Pearl of Great Price

At first glance the Pearl of Great Price appears to be a collection of independent, unrelated accounts and is unlike the Book of Mormon which follows a story from beginning to end.  The books of Moses, Abraham, Joseph Smith Matthew, Joseph Smith History, and the Articles of Faith are joined together as a somewhat eclectic group of sacred texts, having in common mainly the fact that they were given to us by the Prophet Joseph Smith. And yet, despite the fact that these different parts of the Pearl of Great Price came at different times with each one being unique in its own right, there are certainly some common themes that run throughout all parts of the Pearl of Great Price.  The book teaches powerful gospel principles through the stories and teachings of the prophets from whom we have these words.  There is value in seeing the book as one complete whole that truly is a pearl of great price worthy to be bought for “all” that one has (Matthew 13:46). 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Garden and Agency

I heard a comment about how over time Satan has sought to distort the story of Adam and Eve so that most of Christianity views them as having ruined it for all of us.  Because they blew it, we all suffer terribly as the story goes; if only they had resisted temptation we wouldn’t have this evil and fallen world to deal with.  As Latter-day Saints we have a very different understanding of the Adam and Eve story and look to them with great reverence.  We see Satan’s actions in the garden as actually helping move God’s plan forward.  Opposition was needed and Satan provided it, and that allowed Adam and Eve to choose to come to earth and bring the rest of the human family here.  If Satan’s goal in the garden was to thwart the Father’s plan, he failed miserably; the Fall was no surprise to God but part of the original plan.  As the Pearl of Great Price puts it, “[Satan] sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God” (Moses 4:6).  So, since the devil failed on the first go around, perhaps Satan seeks to distort the story so at least it looks like he succeeded in disrupting God’s plan to those who hear the account of Adam and Eve.  But we know that “the works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught,” and the Fall was a step forward in accomplishing those designs (D&C 3:1).    

Monday, April 17, 2017

Soon in the Lord's Time

In scriptures that speak of the last days, the Lord or His prophets often used language to suggest that once the Restoration began, the time until the Second Coming would be short.  In 1830 for example, the Savior told the Prophet Joseph, “For the hour is nigh and the day soon at hand when the earth is ripe; and all the proud and they that do wickedly shall be as stubble; and I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that wickedness shall not be upon the earth” (D&C 29:9).  A few months later He also said, “For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, the time is soon at hand that I shall come in a cloud with power and great glory” (D&C 34:7).  In another revelation around this time the Lord encouraged us that we should be “looking forth for the time of my coming, for it is nigh at hand” (D&C 35:1).  He said similarly in 1831, “Hearken ye, for, behold, the great day of the Lord is nigh at hand” (D&C 43:17).  Also in 1831, the Lord included in His preface to what is now the Doctrine and Covenants, “Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh” (D&C 1:12).  He said in 1834 to “prepare my people for the time when I shall dwell with them, which is nigh at hand” (D&C 104:59).  When Joseph received many necessary Priesthood keys in 1836 Elijah said, “Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors” (D&C 110:16).  The phrases “the hour is nigh,” “the time is soon at hand,” “nigh at hand,” “the Lord is nigh,” and “near, even at the doors” all suggest that the Second Coming of the Lord will be very soon. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Christ as the Son of God

President Hinckley said this, “Multitudes will gather on a thousand hills to welcome the dawn of the Easter day and to remind themselves of the story of the Christ, whose resurrection they will commemorate. In language both beautiful and hopeful, preachers of many faiths will recount the story of the empty tomb. To them—and to you—I raise this question: ‘Do you actually believe it?’  Do you actually believe that Jesus was the Son of God, the literal offspring of the Father?”  The two largest religious groups in the world are Christianity with 2.2 billion followers and Islam with 1.7 billion followers.  There is much that is similar between these two groups and both are considered “Abrahamic religions.”  But one of the key differences is their respective answers to this question from President Hinckley: Is Jesus Christ the Son of God?  As Hugh Nibley described it, “The Koran hails Jesus as a true prophet and a great one, yet Moslem theology rejects all his teachings about the Son of God as false; it teaches that Mary was ‘the woman of truth’ who conceived Jesus by the Holy Ghost and bore him when she was still a virgin, yet it deplores the idea that God should have a Son.”  Yet Christianity declares with John the Baptist with boldness that Jesus “is the Son of God” (John 1:34).